QuickFire: UDL Strategies for Activating Prior Knowledge or Building Background Knowledge

An important process in lesson design is accessing students prior knowledge to identify where their current level of understanding is and any misconceptions they may have lay. After this information has been identified, strategies for building knowledge from their current level of understanding can be applied. After exploring the resources on The National Center on Universal Design for Learning, I have found that there are many strategies for accessing this information and it is important to use a variety of strategies make sure to access the appropriate information and to keep students engaged and interested!

Common strategies that teachers utilize include variations on the KWL chart (Know, Want To Know, Learned), graphic organizers, and concept maps. These are all good strategies to use, however if you are looking to mix things up here are a few new strategies that you can try:

1. Vocabulary Checklist/Continuum – provide your students with a list of key vocabulary and terminology from the unit and then have them place the word on a continuum of understanding from “I have never heard of it before” to “I have heard about it, can explain what it means to you, and can use it appropriately”. This will give you some insight into what students already know and where some pre-teaching of vocabulary may be required.

Reference: http://ellclassroom.com/2008/12/01/building-background/

2. Brain Dump – The name is kind of catchy! This is exactly like it sounds. Provide your students with a topic or concept, and have them record everything that they can think of related to that topic. Students can use words, diagrams, pictures or any other modality to record their knowledge.

Reference: http://ellclassroom.com/2008/12/01/building-background/

3. Embedded Links – If you are creating a document for students to use, consider taking the time to embed links to additional resources that provide students with background information that would be a helpful review or provide students with gaps in their knowledge the opportunity to gain additional knowledge.

Reference: http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples/examples3_1 0 – Windows To The Universe

4. Pre-assessment Tool – Carefully designed pre-assessment tools that respond or adapt to students responses can provide opportunities for students to build their prior knowledge.

Reference: http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples/examples3_1 – Digging For Answers

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